Dear FLORIDA HOMEOWNERS IMPACTED BY HURRICANE IRMA:
Please, please, please stop trusting your homeowner’s insurance company blindly!
Perhaps you have an honest adjuster and insurance company, but how will you know if you don’t do your own homework and fact-check the things your adjuster tells you?! Remember, ALL insurance companies are in the business of making profits. This means taking in more money in premiums than they pay out in claims. You must stay vigilant!
I don’t give you these warnings because I hate insurance companies. I give you these warnings because I have been on the front lines with homeowners who have been utterly mistreated by their homeowner’s insurance companies. It is far worse than any other area of insurance law I have dealt with, and I have handled thousands of cases. In fact, it’s not even a close call.
My theory on the egregious behavior I have witnessed by homeowner’s insurers is twofold. First, I think companies insuring properties in Florida are always preoccupied with their bottom line, considering that the threat of the next hurricane is always on the horizon. I think this causes some insurers to cut corners when possible, even at the expense of their insureds (both literally and figuratively). Second, homeowner’s claims do not get the attention from attorney advertisements the way automobile accident claims do. As a result, I believe that fewer consumers are aware that they can fight back against their homeowner’s insurance companies if a claim is denied or underpaid.
Therefore, I implore you to know your rights and remain vigilant against your own insurance company. Here are the most important tips I can offer if you are currently pursuing a homeowner’s claim in the wake of Irma:
- ALWAYS get your own estimates. Do not rely on the insurance company to tell you how much it will cost to repair your home, replace your roof, etc. Have at least one reputable contractor inspect your home and provide you with a written estimate outlining the needed repairs and associated costs.
- You do not have to use your insurance company’s “preferred providers.” There is NOTHING in your insurance policy that requires you to do this and your choice to use someone other than a “preferred provider” cannot be held against you. Do your homework into any contractor’s background (preferred provider or otherwise) and decide for yourself if you want to hire them.
- Follow-up any phone conversations with your adjuster in writing. Without this, there is no proof that the conversation existed. You can keep it brief, but send an email or a letter that summarizes your understanding of the verbal communication. This will assure there is no misunderstanding and it will help move your claim forward in a timely fashion.
- Get a card from any person (adjuster, contractor, engineer, etc.) who inspects your home on behalf of the insurance company. This information may become important for future evidence if the claim is not resolved amicably.
- If your claim is denied (in whole or in part) or underpaid, get a second opinion! Get an attorney or public adjuster to review the decision issued by your insurance company. This consultation should be free.
In closing, do not leave the result of your homeowner’s claim solely to the whim of your insurance company. Advocate for yourself, educate yourself and make sure you are getting every dollar you are entitled to.
Megan Russo, Esq.